Back to the Grind House
Since February 8th, Memphis has gone 19-1 at home. They’ve won all five of their playoff games in Memphis. Though they’re down 2-0 in the series, they’ve shown they can bounce back at home. And they’ve shown San Antonio that they can play lock-down defense for extended stretches. Expect this series to be tied at 2, and for Wednesday’s (May 29th) Game 5 to be extremely loud and incredibly close.
Tony Parker is healthy and shredding Memphis’ defense. With Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard hitting their open looks, Parker’s assist totals have soared. Parker had 16 assists before the third quarter ended. Parker’s regular season didn’t get the attention of LeBron, Durant or Anthony, because he’s in San Antonio and has been around forever, but Parker was more efficient than ever. According to John Hollinger’s PER (player efficiency rating), Parker had the 9th best regular season in the NBA (23.1). Parker put together an insanely good first half, shooting 53.6%, and averaging 20.8 points and 7.6 assists, while only turning it over at a clip of 2.5 per game. Parker’s playoff run has been filled with dominant performances, though Game 2′s 6 of 20 was a reminder he is capable of going cold from outside (3 of 16 in Game 6 vs GS, 6 of 17 in Game 4 vs GS). Though he finished with a stunning 18 assists, Parker’s 1 for 7 4th quarter showed tired legs. Memphis must keep wearing Parker down as the series intensifies.
Games 1 and 2 (game scores in parentheses)
Tony Parker Game 1: 9 of 14, 20 pts, 9 ast, 2 stl, 3 to = (18.6)
Tony Parker Game 2: 6 of 20, 15 pts, 18 ast, 5 reb, 3 stl, 2 to = (17.5)
Mike Conley‘s 3rd foul was a horrendous call, prompting Jeff Van Gundy to discuss his “challenge” idea, in which each coach would have one “challenge” of a foul call per half. Mike Breen, Van Gundy’s play-by-play partner, who is a former referee, typically defends every call, but agreed that the Conley foul was a mistake. In every playoff game, refs will miss a few calls, but this one was particularly painful, in that Memphis’ offense was sputtering even with Conley. With Conley out of the game, the Spurs dominated the last five minutes of the first-half. Conley’s performance in the first two rounds of the playoffs has been critical. Conley got some revenge in the 3rd quarter, by drawing Duncan’s 4th foul with eight minutes left in the 3rd.
Individual Game Scores (www.basketball-reference.com)
Mr. Steady Spectacular, Mike Conley, Doesn’t Like Game 1′s
Mike Conley Game 1: 5-12, 14 pts, 8 ast, 4 reb, 4 to, 1 stl = (9.8)
Mike Conley Game 2: 6-14, 18 pts, 4 ast, 4 reb, 1 to, 2 stl, l blk = (14.3)
Mike Conley in Game 1′s vs LAC, OKC, SA: (8.6)
Mike Conley in all other playoff games: (16.8)
Zach Randolph is clearly frustrated by the length of Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter. Even more frustrating is the lack of spacing that Memphis creates for Randolph and Marc Gasol. The Spurs are blatantly ignoring Tayshaun Prince, which puts added pressure on Randolph and Gasol. Prince hit enough open shots to keep Oklahoma City honest, but Lionel Hollins might consider Quincy Pondexter over Prince for the majority of the rest of this series. Pondexter can knock down the open jumper and has been a bench catalyst. The problem with moving Pondexter into a bigger role is losing a bench catalyst. Randolph has to get going immediately, and most likely will when the series moves back to Memphis for Games 3 and 4. When the camera cuts to Randolph, he has those little-boy sad eyes when he’s frustrated. He wears his heart on his sleeve, which I appreciate. Z-Bo came alive in the second half of Game 2, scoring with his array of post-maneuvers and pump-fakes. Unfortunately, Randolph had nothing left to offer in overtime.
Zach Randolph Game 1: 1-8, 2 pts, 7 rebounds = (-1.0)
Zach Randolph Game 2: 6-18, 15 pts, 18 rebounds = (10.7)
Kawhi Leonard is once again the most influential defender on the court, which is impressive considering Marc Gasol and Tony Allen share that court. Leonard’s ability to alter shots is one of the reasons that San Antonio could not score underneath in a miserable 2nd quarter. In one telling sequence, Tony Allen had a drove blocked by Leonard from behind, which resulted in a lose ball under the hoop. Duncan, Leonard, Allen and Randolph were involved in a flurry of rebounds, off-balance put-backs, and deflected shots. Allen missed four shots around the rim and Randolph missed two. Kawhi Leonard’s arms and instincts took their toll. Allen’s frustration boiled over after the sequence as he fouled Duncan who had eventually corralled the rebound. Leonard has swiped 17 steals in 12 playoff games. Memphis takes great care of the ball, which will lower that number, but Kawhi’s arms are always nearby.
Game 1: 7 of 10 FG, 4 of 5 3-PT, 18 pts, 2 reb, 1 ast, 2 stl, 1 blk, 1 to = (16.8)
Game 2: 5 of 9, 12 pts, 9 reb, 1 blk = (8.7)
Danny Green, aka Green Energy, has now made 9 of his last 14 from distance. After a couple of uncharacteristic shooting displays against Golden State, Green is once again lethal from behind the arc. If Parker slashes his way through the defense, Green benefits by handing out in the corner and draining his 22-footers. In the two games, Green is averaging 13.5 points on 8.5 shots. That’s what we call efficiency (“Green Energy, anyone?)
Tiago Splitter had a big Game 2 for San Antonio.
Game 2: 6 of 8, 14 pts, 4 reb, 2 ast, 2 blk = (11.2)
Tayshaun Not So Princely
Tayshaun Prince made the Memphis front office look like geniuses with his play at the end of the Clippers series. Granted, the Clippers were playing without their power forward, Blake Griffin, and were increasingly sloppy as the series progressed. Since that stretch of 3 games (detailed below), Prince has been looking downright plebeian.
Tayshaun Prince Game 1 vs SA: 2-5, 6 pts, 2 ast, 1 stl = (5.6)
Tayshaun Prince Game 2 vs SA: 1-5, 2 pts = (-0.4)
Tayshaun Prince vs LAC (Games 4-6, all Memphis wins): 17 of 34 (50%), avg 13.7 ppg, 4.6 reb, 3.7 ast, 1 stl, 1.3 blk = (13.1)
Tayshaun Prince vs OKC, SA: 16 of 54 (29.6%): (2.7)
Bayless may make himself the modern Microwave, emulating Vinnie Johnson of the old Pistons squads, for his instant offense off the bench. Bayless seems to be relishing the reserve scorer role, and had a big hand in Memphis’ comeback in Game 2, creating off the dribble and keeping San Antonio’s defenders honest on the perimeter.
Jerryd Bayless Game 1: 3 of 7, 8 pts, 5 ast, 4 reb = (9.9)
Jerryd Bayless Game 2: 7 of 18 (shot poorly in OT), 18 pts, 3 reb, 3 ast, 2 stl, 1 blk = (11.7)
Game 1: Spurs 105, Grizzlies 83 | GOLLIVER
Game 2: Spurs 93, Grizzlies 89 (OT) | GOLLIVER
Game 3: at MEM, Sat., May 25, 9:00 p.m., ESPN
Game 4: at MEM, Mon., May 27, 9:00 p.m., ESPN
Game 5: at SA, Wed., May 29, 9:00 p.m., ESPN*
Game 6: at MEM, Fri., May 31, 9:00 p.m., ESPN*
Game 7: at SA, Sun., June 2, 9:00 p.m., ESPN*